OAKLAND -- It took 44 games of waiting and anticipation for Marcus Semien’s first home run as a Ranger.
It was 44 games of Semien preaching positive thoughts through his struggles at the plate and the unfortunate inability to help out his team much offensively after signing a seven-year, $175 million deal this offseason.
But after 44 games, it’s almost no shock that he finally broke through with his first home run of the season, a grand slam in the fifth inning on Saturday afternoon. It came at the Oakland Coliseum, in his hometown, against his former team in a commanding 11-4 win.
The blast went 398 feet over the center-field wall, just out of the reach of Cristian Pache who leapt in an attempt to rob it. Only three of Semien’s 45 homers in 2021 went to center or the opposite field.
“When I hit it, I thought, ‘Oh, that’s probably gonna get caught,’” Semien said jokingly. “But it carried out. Sometimes with day games here, when you hit it right, it carries. Of course, a grand slam is great. The first with a new team, a good swing to help us win, I’ll take it.”
He ended a 44-game drought without a homer to start the season. It was Semien’s sixth career grand slam, four of which have come at the Coliseum and the last of which came at Yankee Stadium in 2021 as a member of the Blue Jays.
It was a long time coming. Semien was mostly happy to be part of a winning rally for the Rangers in a six-run fifth inning. Manager Chris Woodward said Friday night that “when [Semien] goes, we go” as an offense. In a short time, that’s shown to be true.
Texas stormed out to a decisive victory over Oakland behind Semien’s grand slam and back-to-back bombs from Corey Seager and Adolis García in the third inning. Seager had a 3-for-4 day at the plate and finished a triple short of the cycle in his first three-hit game as a member of the Rangers.
This was the sort of game the Rangers envisioned when they made those blockbuster signings of Seager and Semien this offseason, but the dream has rarely come together early on. On Saturday, however, the vision was realized with complete days at the plate from the middle infield superstars and valuable contributions from up and down the lineup.
The offensive output was one of the best Texas has produced in the last two years, with a season-high 18 hits, eight extra-base hits and seven players with multi-hit games. Eighteen hits and seven players with multi-hit games is by far the most the Rangers have had in a single game since a 20-hit outburst on Sept. 8, 2019, against the Orioles.
“It’s been fun to watch the at-bat quality,” Woodward said. “Home runs come from our ability to be disciplined and be aggressive in our areas. I think just at-bat after at-bat after at-bat, we're having a lot more continuous innings where it's like one after another after another. When we have that going, we're tough to pitch because we just don't give in at all.”
For weeks, Semien has been saying he feels good at the plate, but he had nothing to truly show for it. The second baseman has had his fair share of hard-hit line drives right at outfielders or warning track fly balls that may have been out of the park in previous years.
Now, he has hits in eight of his last 10 games with a .317/.356/.463 slash line and an .819 OPS over that span.
“As a hitter, you work really hard to feel good and feel strong, to do all the work in the cage,” Semien said. “And when it's not happening in the game, you don't want to get discouraged, you just want to continue to stay consistent with your work and let it happen.
“It’s human nature to press sometimes with a new team. I went through it last year too, just not this long of a slump or whatever you want to call it. Of course, when I’m not getting hits and we're not winning, I get frustrated, but I understand that this is a long season. You [go] through the ups and downs. Sometimes you start with slumps, but I am going to work as hard as I can to get out of it.”